11 years on, kin of Ampatuan massacre victims still searching for justice

Journalists demand the conviction of the principal suspects in the Ampatuan massacre case. (Photo by Carlo Manalansan / Bulatlat)

Under the Duterte administration, human rights group Karapatan said the climate of impunity that has made this massacre possible has “visibly intensified,” particularly as attacks against journalists continue unabated.

By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
Bulatlat.com

MANILA — Search for justice continues more than a decade since the gruesome killing of the 58 victims — 32 of whom were journalists — of the now known as the Ampatuan massacre.

Relatives and local journalists gathered at the Forest Lake cemetery in General Santos City yesterday, Nov. 23, to commemorate the death of their loved ones ad colleagues.

In a statement, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said that contrary from government claims, the case is far from solved despite the conviction of the massacre masterminds and their co-accused. The family of the 58th victim Reynaldo Momay has yet to prove his death before a Philippine court, which last year only cited 57 counts of murder in the historic decision. Meanwhile, at least 76 more suspects remain at large.

Families of victims welcome conviction of Ampatuans

What about the 58th victim?

“This aside, how can anyone even pretend press freedom is anywhere near well under an administration that has presided over the closure of the country’s largest broadcast network and the persecution of another independent news organization? How, when 19 colleagues have perished since under this government, four of them just this year, two of them over just four days this month? How, when the president and his subalterns have shown undisguised contempt for the independent media and have no qualms about lying?” the NUJP said in a statement.

Under the Duterte administration, human rights group Karapatan said the climate of impunity that has made this massacre possible has “visibly intensified,” particularly as attacks against journalists continue. Among these are the shutting down of media giant ABS-CBN, filing of libel cases to silence truthtellers, red-tagging, and worse, killings. Still, the group noted how the current administration has used last year’s historic verdict against the Ampatuans and their co-accused to assuage calls for independent international investigation on the deteriorating human rights situation in the country.

The families of the victims, despite the raging pandemic, remained resolute in their struggle for justice. Civil damages, too, has yet to be provided to the families.

The NUJP thanked the families for their continuing support, adding that their “courage and perseverance have and continue to inspire us. We will ever be grateful to you for accepting us as partners in your search for justice, not only for your loved ones, but for all journalists who have been killed in the course of their work. ()

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